The motivation to found The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking ranking was to profile executives whose performances are remarkable, but whose gender happens to be female in an industry dominated by men.

But what began as a critical examination of the disconnect between the extraordinary number of women employed in the financial industry and the few, in percentage terms, who actually make it to the executive suite has revealed more than women's desire to establish themselves in well-earned positions of power.

It's brought into sharp focus how women in the financial industry are using their influence to advance women's professional development and to push for greater progress in public policy, education and healthcare. After talking with hundreds of top-ranked women in financial services and hearing their stories over the past six years, it is clear that cancer-breast, cervical and ovarian-is the dominant medical concern and, in many cases, a very personal journey and cause for these women.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, accounting for one in four cancers diagnosed in U.S. women. The American Cancer Society estimated that 178,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 62,000 additional cases of in situ breast cancer would be diagnosed in 2007. That same year, 40,460 women were expected to die.

Breast cancer cuts women down in the prime of their lives: as top performers, as partners, as mothers, as sisters, as colleagues, as staff members and as friends. It knows no socio-economic or professional boundaries and, in spite of a decrease in incidence rates between 2001 and 2004 of 3.5 percent per year, it continues to plague women.

This year, U.S. Banker felt the unkind and unfair effects of breast cancer in its own family, a painful reminder of how far there is to go in finding a cure. As part of its commitment to The 25 MPWIB community, it is fitting, then, that the magazine make its annual charitable donation on behalf of honorees to support a cause that is both personal and professional. Breast cancer and other cancers afflicting women hit too close to home too often to not do what it takes to spur more progress in research, treatment, and, eventually, a cure.

The influence women have in the battle to beat breast cancer is not only the awareness and money that they raise, but also the hope they bring to those waiting for the cure. In 2008, our donations to the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure aim to achieve both. (c) 2008 U.S. Banker and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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